SINGAPORE - There might be hope yet that an unusual koi tank built on the doorsteps of a Housing Board flat could be retained, with the owner now working with the Tampines Town Council to address safety concerns.
The Housing and Development Board (HDB) had said on Tuesday (Jan 15) that the tank would have to be removed, as it poses safety concerns that "could potentially lead to injuries or fatalities". These concerns include the risk of the glass tank shattering or children climbing into the tank.
The Tampines Street 41 resident installed glass panels to the walls around the four steps into his ground floor flat to house around a dozen pet fish, but was not aware that he needed permission to make the alteration.
In response to queries from The Straits Times on Wednesday (Jan 16), Tampines GRC MP Baey Yam Keng said HDB had valid concerns over public safety, and that the town council is working together with the resident to try to address these concerns.
Mr Baey said: "We are in the midst of putting up an appeal to keep the tank.
"We need to sort out some details… we need to address HDB's concerns, and we hope that HDB can be a bit flexible."
He said that there are some preliminary ideas in response to HDB's feedback about safety concerns, and the town council hopes to put together the appeal within the next two months.
With regard to concerns about the glass shattering, the tank uses tempered glass, which does not shatter into sharp shards as compared with regular glass, Mr Baey said.
Regarding concerns that children may fall into the tank, the MP said that the tank is not very deep and anyone who is able to climb into it is likely tall enough not to drown. But one potential solution to avoid this risk would be to put up railings around the tank, he added.
As for the electrical sockets and cables connected to the tank that HDB said are exposed to weather elements, Mr Baey said the town council will ask the resident if he can put up some protection to remove this risk.
"It's about how we strike a balance," said Mr Baey.
"We hope that this can be a test case where all parties come together to work towards a win-win situation."
Mr Baey said that he is helping with the resident's appeal as he felt the case has merits, citing reasons such as how the tank has lasted without problems so far, and how it has been accepted by the community.
"The tank has stood the test of time. If it is something that is built recently, we won't be able to tell how sturdy it is, but it has been there for two or three years and haven't caused any trouble," Mr Baey said.
"It is also something the community enjoy. It is not just the resident who keeps it, but stakeholders, neighbours and children in the area have shared that they appreciate it."
When he visited the flat on Wednesday morning, neighbours and two groups of children from nearby childcare centres told him it was a pity if the tank was demolished, he added.
When ST visited the unit earlier on Tuesday night, the owner, who declined to be named, was adamant that the space was his private landing and that he should be allowed to keep the tank.
"It doesn't cause any obstruction to people and the laws should be applied on a case-by-case basis," he said. "If I go to any other unit, I will also find broken laws, such as plants on the stairs."
He also told ST on Tuesday that the tank has drawn visitors from as far as Jurong and Bukit Batok.
This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.